“But he is in outdoor”...on the face of it, an innocent statement but often the context of this is derogatory and is fraught with underlying questions – questions that are perhaps more imaginary than real. Questions that reveal the ignorance about the medium and the professionals that run it. These are questions that reveal the lack of knowledge that people making such statements have. Questions that display the arrogance of the people asking them and pretending to treat the out-of-home professional as a secondary citizen of the media industry. Questions that are unfair, to say the least. But let me confess that until a year ago, I had similar questions in my mind and when I am now part of outdoor, I do realise how unfair these are. Treat this as a confession of a myopia that I had until a year ago or treat it as an attempt to answer all questions that people have in their mind.
That the outdoor professional is different from his ‘mainline’ media counterpart is a myth at best. A myth that has been propagated more because no one really tried to bust it! It is a myth that is based more on the nature of the medium and the way it has been positioned than any other reason. A myth that is perhaps based on the perception that everything in OOH is ‘jugaad’ in its truest form. A myth that is based on a total lack of understanding of what it is that really goes into making an OOH plan work and work well. A myth that continues to be fuelled because no one really stood up for what the medium can actually deliver.
Now, I am no messiah for outdoor nor do I purport to become one in the future. However, I do resent such comments coming in from people in the media industry who matter. And this is my bashful attempt at trying to bust some of these myths.
Even the government of India runs on ‘jugaad’. Come to think of it, there is even a case study on ‘jugaad’ in the HBR! It talks about the way that business is done in India. Now don’t tell me that ‘jugaad’ in print and TV does not exist. I have had the unique distinction of working for 17 years in TV and print and one year in outdoor. I know it is a way of doing ‘bizness’ in India and is nothing unique to OOH as a medium.
The nature of the medium is, I agree, unique in more ways than one. It is unstructured, unmeasured and unaccountable, among many other things. Does this make OOH unique? I don’t believe so. It only tells us that OOH is in a stage of evolution. Sample sizes for TAM are still debated and BARC has now made its entry. Every time the IRS comes out with a survey there is bedlam in the press world with allegations flying all over. And yet TAM and IRS are respected bodies. There is nothing wrong with it. Similarly in OOH, there are attempts being made to get things streamlined. A few good people have begun the process and it will take its time.
Talent has always been the bane of the media industry and OOH is not unique in this sphere. It is perhaps a little more adversely affected than the others given the evolutionary state that the medium is in. Attracting talent is a challenge that the industry must set for itself in the coming period.
The outdoor person is not an alien from Mars but just another media person doing his job. And given the circumstances, I would think, doing it rather well! Hold your head high boys and girls for you are in outdoor.
The author is MD, Kinetic